WOODY PASS TO STEHEKIN, WA
PCT Sobo Mile 12.8 to 80.9
Day 3: July 11th, 2017 Woody Pass to Harts Pass
I woke up at 4:15 this morning and it was already getting light out. I almost felt like I had slept enough, and was excited about getting on the trail, but knew better. We started out by 8:00am back over Rock Pass. There was some kind of fire today, evident fairly strongly as we came over the Pass, as I even needed to keep my neck buff over my face to breathe better.
Today was Monica’s birthday, so I stopped and collected a small bouquet of wildflowers, with their permission of course, and gave them to her. Trail Birthdays are the best. I hoped she was having a great day. We covered about 21 miles and I felt quite strong hiking. I enjoyed many quiet miles through the forest with dappled sunlight, little trickling streams and vistas of snow capped mountains as far as the eye can see.
When we made it back to Hart’s Pass we collected our food that we had left behind with the ranger. He had a bunch of hiker food dangling from the ceiling in the outhouse, and I had to climb on a rickety ladder to retrieve mine. I also left behind a bunch of food for the hiker box since I packed way too much.
After making it back to Hart’s Pass I realized that I was now ticking off positive miles, Hart’s Pass being Mile 30 from the border. It felt like this hike was perhaps really underway. Monica and I decided to camp just about .1 miles North of the actual campgrounds so we could enjoy more solitude and once we got settled in, we stopped at a small stream to collect water. We ended up doing a full rinse off there, as it was just the right place to sit and wash your legs with just the right amount of sunlight streaming through the trees to keep you warm. After that we built a nice campfire and enjoyed chatting until dark.
Day 4: July 12th, 2017 Harts Pass to somewhere 22.5 miles ahead. Not all places we camp have a name on the map, but are just there for us to rest our tired bones. I woke up cold in the night last night, and I think it got down to 35 degrees. Ironically, by bag is rated to 20F but I have to ask whether that is the rating that you would not die at or is that the comfort rating? I have to assume the former. I know already that this bag will not be cutting it in the Sierra’s this year.
All day today I kept hearing the most wonderful bird. It’s call is something like Weeeeee-weee-leee-leee-leee if you could put a roman alphabet to a bird call, which people do, but I honestly don’t know how that works. But this bird, which I am going to call the Washington bird, because I have never heard it before anywhere else, seems to be magical. The first note is longer and then the last three or four are shorter but sort of like a trickle, like water and with an echo. The way the sound reverberates off the mountains and forest, or into the empty space, for that matter, makes me very happy. But then, everything about being here makes me happy…..I feel like I am on the proverbial Cloud Nine. If I could say I was in love, I would. So, I guess, I am. I am in Love with this life.
Monica and I hiked together much of the day, and we sometimes hike in silence, sometimes we converse, and I feel very comfortable with this flow. It allows me just the right balance of solitude and mental engagement. We made our way down a long set of switchbacks this afternoon, coming into Glacier Pass. It took us a couple of hours it seemed to make it all the way down, and Monica was commenting on how long it was. The funny part was I had absolutely no recollection of ever hiking UP that section of trail. Clearly, I did it last year, but I remember nothing. How does that work?
We passed through many different micro-ecosystems today as we encountered so many different kinds of terrain. I have photos of my feet on anything from scree to big rocks, to sand to snow, to mud, to flowing water on the trail, rocky traverses and exposed ridges dotted with grape scented lupine, and occasionally some actual flat dirt covered in pine duff, my favorite! We walked a solid two miles today through overgrown plant matter as high as my head, forcing me to hold my trekking poles up high to get through.
We took a leisurely lunch break in the cool forest and spent time chatting, literally enjoying the forest for the trees. I am still feeling strong, hiking strong, and I attribute much of that to my lighter pack weight, it is very encouraging. I think there might be something to this ultralight business.
Day 5: July 13th, 2017 from “somewhere of nowhere” to a place called Six Mile Camp, passing through Rainy Pass. 18 miles for me 22 for Monica (I will explain).
We had caught up with a couple other Sobo’s yesterday, Anna and Matthew by the end of the day. Anna was having knee trouble, so I started out the day today giving her an acupuncture treatment on the trail. The surrounding mountains were graced with clouds and mist, the way I remember Washington, and as we sat there waiting for the needles to do their magic, we chatted and shivered just a little. She had to get off trail at Rainy Pass, and so I was hoping the treatment would at least help her cover the 10 miles or so to get there. Reportedly it did.
That morning we covered several large patches of snow after walking along a beautiful ridge that allowed you to walk while viewing the entire valley below blanketed in thick dark forest. It is the kind of forest that feels so pure, untouched, unobstructed by the hands of man, and expanding into everywhere. Much of the time we have to focus on every step that we place our feet. Monica calculated that we have been doing about 50,000 steps a day on her fitbit, which means that 50,000 times a day we have to pay attention to where we step. A section on trail that is flat and smoothe, therefore is like a dream, especially with the views we were getting today.
Monica went up ahead while we did the acupuncture and we agreed to meet at Rainy Pass. I hiked just behind Anna and Matthew for the morning and took my time taking in all the scenery. I had memories of last Fall, passing through the Larch trees, as they had turned to gold and contrasted so brightly against a gray cloudy sky. It looks so different now, they are a fresh green and glowing with life. I decided today that I truly love Larch trees. I felt like I knew a secret about them that others do not, I have seen them gold, and I know this. Is that a thing about love? This made my love for them even deeper and I thought as I walked how beauty bonds us. All of ous out here seeing this, feeling this, we have it together now. I thought about this as I hiked along and stared way out into the distance of layers upon layers of Mountains. It is just ridiculous how beautiful it is up here and how wonderful the weather has been, like a dream. Pinch me, I must be dreaming.
The Larch trees from last Fall….
Drifting in my own pool of endorphins, I started to realize that maybe I needed to hurry it up. I had visions of Monica waiting for a long time down at Rainy Pass, so I scurried down fast to the parking lot by 1:00pm. When I got there, she was nowere to be found. Hmmmm? I looked across the highway where the trail continues and I even called into the forest caaaw caaaaaw which we had established as our secret form of communication, pretty clever, I know. I didn’t find her still. Matthew and Anna showed up and Anna got a ride into Winthrop by a badass lady day hiker in her 60’s who was super fit and amazing. Finally after about an hour, Monica came walking out of the forest. From where I was I called out caaaw caaaw and she whipped around, surprised to see me there. Turns out she had accidentally hiked off the PCT on a side trail about 2 miles, before realizing she was off trail. Ugh! Hate when that happens. She laughed about it and took it in stride. I know for me, not the first time, not the last time either.
We continued on to a place called Six Mile camp which actually exists inside the North Cascaes National Park. There were weekend campers there, complete with everything but the kitchen sink, and screaming children. So, we found a couple of PCT hikers at the far end of camp and buddied up with them. It was a hot exposed afternoon hike, and we were feeling pretty tired, and thankful to be situated next to a rushing creek. Home for the night is always a welcome thing.
Day 6: July 14th, 2017 Six Mile Camp to Stehekin (one of my favorite places!) 11.5 miles by noon.
We had a bus to catch, the shuttle bus into Stehekin. It ran a few times a day and my good friend Arrow whom I met on the PCT last year was coming out to meet me there. I wanted to spend as much time with him as possible, so we got up early and pushed to make the noon shuttle. We arrived there with 15 minutes to spare, plenty of time.
Stehekin had come to mean so much to me last season while hiking. It was the last stop of the trail, the last chance to take some time off to reconcile what I had just done and was about to complete. Now, it was so fresh and different. I did not plan on staying too long, as I wanted to get back on trail the next day. We took the shuttle bus ride, about 30 minutes up the Lake Chelan River into the landing at Stehekin, and promptly got ourselves a cold beer. We then went to find Arrow at the campground, who was there with open arms.
We spent the afternoon swimming in the lake and taking in the relaxed vibe of the smaller than small town. Stehekin is truly beautiful, and peaceful. It has a quiet stillness about it that no othet trail town has. We enjoyed dinner at the only restaurant there, and I cowboy camped that night since it was so warm. I remembber waking in the middle of the night to a circle of trees filled in the center with stars. It was a breathtaking sight, and I fought hard to keep my eyes open. I think that lasted about 20 seconds before I fell back to sleep.
In the morning, we got our laundry done and had instant coffee in camp, with the anticipation of making it to the Bakery. We rented bikes and like little giddy children, we rode to the Bakery by 10am and delighted in real coffee, pastries and egg sandwiches. By 11am we realized we were not going to make the 11:30 bus back to the trail, so we easily agreed to extend it to the 2:30 bus. It worked out great because we then had time to relax just a little more, and I still needed to get my resupply food organized. I went digging through the hiker box and found a treasure, a fresh pair of Dirty Girl Gaiters which were perfect for Monica!
When the time came to get back on trail, Arrow joined us and hiked for about 3 miles or so, even with a hurt knee. We sadly had to part ways in the forest, and hugs were exchnaged all around. Then Monica and I set off deeper into the woods and hiked on a beautiful section of trail that gradually climbs along the rushing creek. Around 8pm we settled on a lovely campsite by the creek where we met another female hiker we had just met on the bus, Lena. She was from Hawaii.
This section ahead of us was going to be tough, very tough, so we made sure to get a good night sleep. I had plans to meet my family in Oregon in 5 days, so we had to take on the challenge of hiking one of the most notoriously difficult sections of the entire PCT, Stekehin to Steven’s Pass in 4.5 days. I knew we could do it, as long as there weren’t too many obstacles to slow us down from making around 25 miles each day. I did not have much information on the conditions of the trail, but felt in my gut we could do it, so we went for it.